Wilkins targets regular game time after grabbing his first Saints try

Scoring your first Saints try in an East Midlands derby should make it a day to remember.

But Karl Wilkins knows last Friday was very much one to forget for the club he grew up at.

Because while Saints scored three times on the night, they were well beaten, losing 35-20 to local rivals Leicester Tigers.

“It was a tough game but I’m happy to have scored my first try for the club,” said Wilkins, who left Saints at the age of 18 to move to France before returning home last summer.

“It wasn’t the most glamorous try, it was about a yard out if that, but it was good to get on the scoresheet.

“It was a tough result but we’ve got a chance to put that right this Saturday.

“I did play at Welford Road about 10 years ago with the Saints Academy so it had changed a little bit.

“I can’t even remember if we won then because it was so long ago.

Karl Wilkins

“It was good to be involved in my first proper derby last Friday, a tough experience but good to get it under my belt.”

Saints now they head into Saturday’s return to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens under real pressure to get a result.

If they don’t - they could finish the weekend as low as ninth in the Gallagher Premiership.

Flanker Wilkins is set to play a key role, having come off the bench at half-time at Mattioli Woods Welford Road last time out.

And he said: “With Luds (Lewis Ludlam) and Courts (Courtney Lawes) away, this is a chance for me to get a run in the team but the main thing is to get the result on Saturday. Everything else is just a bonus.

“Overall, I think I’ve settled in quite well but then I had Covid last month so I was out of the club for a bit.

“I’ve been in and out of the squad but I feel I’ve settled in now, I know my role in the team when I’m out there and I’m hoping to kick on.

“I was one of many who got pinged at the start of the Racing 92 week.

“I was testing negative on my lateral flows but then on the fifth day, when you’re allowed out, that’s when my lateral flow started being positive.

“So I then missed the Worcester week as well, which was obviously frustrating, but it’s the world we live in and I’m back involved now.”

Wilkins made his Saints debut in the reverse fixture against Sale back in November but it didn’t go well for the team as they were beaten 30-6 at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Wilkins feels Sale will pose similar problems this weekend, but he is hoping for a far better outcome.

“It will probably be quite similar to last week and to the game we had against them back in November,” he said.

“It will be windy conditions again and it’s a big challenge for us to put as many wrongs from last week right as possible.

“We’ve had pretty simple messages this week because we know what’s coming and we won’t be shocked by it.

“We will be prepared for Saturday.”

Having spent seven years in France, former Béziers skipper Wilkins is well versed at taking on big packs stacked with South African stars.

He added: “Big packs, scrums and mauls from November to February, that’s the game plan of everyone in France.

“In France, teams having a lot of South African forwards is common and it’s a great challenge.

“They’re big and physical so you know what you will get.

“It’s a case of living up to the challenge on game day.”

Saints now have two home games to get their teeth stuck into having played their past three league matches on the road.

And with just four points separating fourth-placed Harlequins and ninth-placed Sale, seventh-placed Saints know how vital it is that they win their games at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

“We’ve got two massive games coming up at home and we need to get our momentum going,” Wilkins said.

“We’re not far off the top four and a couple of good results would make a big difference so hopefully we can achieve that.”